(575 words, translation Kathy Arnold)
Last March, the European Parliament (EP) stripped representatives (MEPs) and former Catalan President Carles Puigdemont and his ministers Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí of their legal immunity. Because their immunity had been revoked due to political persecution by Spain, they filed a complaint at the European General Court (EGC) and requested their immunity be restored. However, the EGC refused to do so after the Spanish state attorney, Sonsoles Centeno, communicated to the European Court that the European extradition order against them (they are in exile in Belgium) had been suspended by Spain. The investigating judge of the Spanish Supreme Court, Llarena, who had issued the extradition orders, had submitted some legal questions to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on the conditions under which an extradition order may be refused by an EU member state. As a result, and according to the Spanish state attorney at the CJEU, the legal process against the Catalan politicians was suspended until the CJEU clarified these uncertainties. In fact, the state attorney had not said anything that specific, since such European norms are already dictated. However, the arrest warrant in Spain itself remained active. Therefore, Puigdemont and associates assumed they could travel freely throughout Europe, with the exception of Spain.
Last September, however, Puigdemont was arrested on his arrival at the airport in Sardinia, Italy. After spending a night in a cell, he was released the next day. The Italian judge ruled in Puigdemont’s defence that the ECG guarantees that he cannot be extradited to Spain. However, it turned out that Llarena had not withdrawn the European extradition order. As a result, Puigdemont and associates asked the EGC again to restore their immunity as MEPs. Last 26 October, the court refused using the same argument as before that this is not required because of Llarena’s asking the CJEU for advice. However, the ruling was even sharper than the previous one, stating that ‘the European extradition applications are invalid, despite what Lllarena claims’. The CJEU also pointed out to the Spanish Supreme Court that Puigdemont and associates cannot even be arrested in Spain because the ‘European law stating that a trial is suspended when advice has been requested from the CJEU is in force throughout the entire EU’.
As a result, the Catalan politicians asked Llarena if he had already notified the Spanish police that they could not be arrested in Spain. The answer took a few days, but in the end the Spanish Supreme Court leaked its opinion through the Spanish news agency Europa Press. In it, the Supreme Court states ‘Whatever the EGC says has no influence on the case because Spanish law is not subject to European law’. In addition, it maintains that the ruling of the EGC must first be translated from English and French into Spanish before it can be evaluated.
Which other EU Member State recently claimed the same but retracted this when the Union threatened to stop their Covid aid? This time, however, it isn’t the Polish government, which can be removed by its voters, which is concerned, but the unrenovated Spanish post-Franco justice system. A conflict between Spain and the European Union seems inevitable.
Under pressure from the Spanish Supreme Court and the media, Centeno has since resigned as state attorney. She has been blamed for not extraditing Puigdemont to Spain. The Catalan political crisis is also taking its toll in Spain in the form of mutual accusations, tensions, and conflicts.
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